Saturday, April 08, 2006

Iran War Plan

"There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change."
Having broken Iraq like a bull in a china shop, George W. Bush has set his sights on "regime change" in Iran, according to Seymour Hersh in the latest issue of The New Yorker.

When almost no one else did, Hersh and his sources had it exactly right about Iraq at least a year and a half before Bush invaded Iraq. He wrote that Bush was determined to wage war against Iraq even before 9-11. He predicted Bush would ignore all evidence that Iraq had no WMD. He foresaw a quick military victory... and a prolonged , deadly descent into chaos and eventually civil war, leaving the U.S. with no good options and the Middle East far worse than the way we found it.

Sy Hersh's track record with his reliable sources, alone, is cause to worry that he is right again:
One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’”

* * *
“This is much more than a nuclear issue,” one high-ranking diplomat told me in Vienna. “That’s just a rallying point, and there is still time to fix it. But the Administration believes it cannot be fixed unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years.”
According to another source Hersh identifies as a "A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee" the Bush administration has been "selectively" briefing a members of Congress on its war plans.
The House member said that no one in the meetings “is really objecting” to the talk of war. “The people they’re briefing are the same ones who led the charge on Iraq. At most, questions are raised: How are you going to hit all the sites at once? How are you going to get deep enough?” (Iran is building facilities underground.) “There’s no pressure from Congress” not to take military action, the House member added. “The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it.”
Then there's this --
Speaking of President Bush, the House member said, “The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.”
Not only that. Other sources tell Hersh that Bush now is being driven by thoughts “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.” Having screwed up Iraq for at least a generation, and having sent thousands of American soldiers to be killed or maimed, apparently Bush is now pinning personal hopes for rescuing his reputation on a do-over in Iran.

And he wants to do it by nuking Iran.

According to Hersh's military sources, first-use of nuclear weapons will be a necessity once the decision to initiate war has been made.
The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. “Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap,” the former senior intelligence official said. “ ‘Decisive’ is the key word of the Air Force’s planning. It’s a tough decision. But we made it in Japan.

[A former intelligence official] went on, “Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout—we’re talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don’t have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out”—remove the nuclear option—“they’re shouted down.”
The one remaining obstacle, writes Hersh, is stiff opposition within the military, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He also confirmed that some senior officers and officials were considering resigning over the issue. “There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries,” the adviser told me. “This goes to high levels.” The matter may soon reach a decisive point, he said, because the Joint Chiefs had agreed to give President Bush a formal recommendation stating that they are strongly opposed to considering the nuclear option for Iran. “The internal debate on this has hardened in recent weeks,” the adviser said. “And, if senior Pentagon officers express their opposition to the use of offensive nuclear weapons, then it will never happen.”
Hersh's sources confirm recent rumors that we already have "American combat troops" on the ground in Iran to study the terrain, illuminate targets, pay off tribal leaders, and recruit scouts "from local tribes and shepherds."

There's no doubt that the mullahs running Iran and the democratically-elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are fanatics:
Robert Baer, who was a C.I.A. officer in the Middle East and elsewhere for two decades, told me that Ahmadinejad and his Revolutionary Guard colleagues in the Iranian government “are capable of making a bomb, hiding it, and launching it at Israel. They’re apocalyptic Shiites. If you’re sitting in Tel Aviv and you believe they’ve got nukes and missiles—you’ve got to take them out. These guys are nuts, and there’s no reason to back off.”
Great. Just great. We're facing "apocalyptic Shiites" and what we have on our side is an apocalyptic Baptist alcoholic who's worried history will judge him as a wimp.

Essentially the same conclusion is articulated in one short passage mid-way through Hersh's article, when he quotes the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) inspector-general, Mohamed el Baradei -- the guy who had it right on Iraq's lack of nuclear weapons.
ElBaradei’s overriding concern is that the Iranian leaders “want confrontation, just like the neocons on the other side”—in Washington.
Hersh has more to report -- about how Iran would likely respond to a U.S. attack; what this would mean for domestic petroleum imports (not to mention the U.S. economy); how 'regime change' would further inflame the Middle East and alienate what few steadfast allies we have left; and how, speaking with understatement, the whole misdaventure would make for a very "messy" world.

It's well worth reading the whole article.

It is possible, of course, that Hersh's article is in some way the product of an Administration disinformation campaign intended to frighten Iran into submission. But Sy Hersh had it right on Iraq the last time a lot of Americans thought Bush was just bluffing.

We can hope Hersh has it wrong this time, but it sure looks like a sucker's bet. British analysts already are alert for the first signs at our B-21 bases there of a countdown to war.

(typos corrected 4/08/06 3:03 pm)

No comments: